This is is an article I wrote that was published in Japan Times today about safety in Japan for women. I know this is a little off-topic from my usual posts, but trying to spread the word about this as much as possible. Please share if you know women living in Japan or who might visit. Besos.
Click the photo for my Spotify playlist “Summertime Blues” (artists and song names listed below) to get you through those bouts of yucky feelings year-round. There are some chillax songs, booty-shaking indie pop, hip-hop, dance hits, slow jams, and other random guilty pleasures.
Summertime Blues: Making gluten-free Dinner without Cooking
I’m from California, so summertime has always had really happy connotations like sunshine, sand, parks, beaches, house parties, BBQs, picnics, trips to Mexico, butterflies, flowers, and blue skies. In Barcelona, the feeling was much the same, with lots of terrace parties and claritas (of course for me the gluten-free Estrella variety). Even in Kyoto, the Kamo River or Lake Biwa became our beach, and my friends and I often organized picnics or excursions. For as oppressive as the heat was, the feeling was happy.
However, this last summer I spent in Tokyo was unbelievably depressing. I´m an optimistic person, and I found just about every positive I could, every plot of green grass to wander barefoot in. I tried to enjoy the overcrowded, polluted beaches that took a long train ride to get to. There were so many rainy days, and the weekdays (and their sticky humidity, heat, crowds, and the corresponding bad energy people carried with them) left me half-dead for the weekend. There were some highlights, like visiting Cat Island and Fuji Rock, but almost every day I really longed to be anywhere besides Tokyo. As always, music really got me through.
I craved that carefree California summer feeling, and the only place I could find it was in music. In the hours of the day when I was alone, song was my ocean, my plot of sand to contemplate the moment. As always, music became particularly important when I prepared our evening meal.
Our kitchen is ridiculously small and lacks a window, so it felt like a hot, humid jail cell in the summer. Thus, one of my favorite dishes to ¨cook¨ is one that barely requires any cooking at all: rice paper rolls. They´re a perfect substitute for a tortilla and can be filled with just about anything! They are very easily found in Japan, and are often on sale at places like Kaldi.
1) I prepare whatever my filling is going to be. My favorite is smoked salmon, cream cheese and greens, but just about anything works.
I ALWAYS put fresh veggies and greens inside, but since it´s the main meal I usually add something like:
• Tuna (mixed with lemon, mayo, spices, hot sauce, chopped onion, cilantro)
• Garbanzos mixed with a little of last night´s rice and lemon
• Boiled chicken and a sauce like pico de gallo
• Homemade hummus
• Mango and cream cheese
• Whatever occurs to me at the moment and/or I have lying around. There are no rules!
2) I wet the paper in a bowl of warm water (even warm tap water will do) until it´s soft and easy to fold, put some filling inside, wrap it up into a roll, and move on to the next roll. You can slice them or leave them whole. Sometimes I make a sauce to go with them, but they´re pretty good on their own. Either way, healthy and delicious, and they make a great bento too!
In the photo above I added boiled chicken, sesame seeds, lettuce, along with a yogurt-cucumber sauce. I also made a boiled eggplant dish that was a successful experiment, but honestly took much longer to make than I was happy being in the kitchen. Thankfully there was good music to help me suffer through the heat.
Today´s Playlist *click on the picture above for the link*
“Doin’ Time (Uptown Dub)” Sublime
“Pool Swimmers” Real Estate
“No Voodoo” Allah-Las
“On the Line” The Olms
“Bummer in the Summer” Love
“No Destruction” Foxygen
“So Desperate” King Tuff
“FFunny FFriends” Unknown Mortal Orchestra
“Double Vision” Jacuzzi Boys
“Summer Fun” Tijuana Panthers
“ Boomers” Twin Peaks
“Deadbeat Summer” Neon Indian
“En Español” The Memories
“Los Mangopaunos” Xenia Rubios
“Cinco Minutos Con Vos” Elvis Costello and the Roots
“The Observer” Brazos
“Weird House” Disappears
“Written All Over Your Face” Holy Shit, Ariel Pink
“Raspberry Thighs” The Mantles
“First Days of Something” Young Dreams
“Jump in the Pool” Friendly Fires
“Vanishing Point” Cold Pumas
“Plastic Soldiers” Portugal the Man
“Wolf Like Me” TV on the Radio
“Swimming After Dark” Guards
“Morning Sickness” Bosnian Rainbows
“Banquet” Bloc Party
“Book of Flags” Q and Not U
“My Girls” Animal Collective
“Hit and Miss” The Tins
“I Turn My Camera On” Spoon
“Check My Heart” The Pastels
“The Words That Maketh Murder” PJ Harvey
“Shithead” Potty Mouth
“Cookie Road” The Julie Ruin
“Beatific” Glass Candy
“Mind Mischief—Ducktails Remix” Tame Impala”
“Your Cover’s Blown—Miaoux Miaoux Remix” Belle and Sebastian
“Into Black” Blouse
“Chasing My Mind” Holograms
“Groove Is In the Heart/California Girls” Crocodiles
“A Summer Thing” Cayucas
“Lost Kitten” Metric
“My Number” Foals
“Real Life” Tanlines
“Smoke Screen” Shocking Pinks
“Live It Up” POP ETC
“Doin’ It Right” Daft Punk, Panda Bear
“Bros” Panda Bear
“The Wrath of Marcie” The Go! Team
“Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” CSS
“Crushin’” Police Academy 6 Ft. Cherub
“Hearts on Fire” Cut Copy
“Hell Me” Humans
“Doing Coke” Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
“A Fax From The Beach” Classixx
“Do You Believe” Poolside
“How Deep Is Your Love?” The Rapture
“Holidays ft. Alan Palomo” Miami Horror
“Bridge and Tunnel” Holy Ghost
“New York 2017” Party Supplies
“Cruel Summer” Bananarama
“Everything’s Fine” Minks
“Love Vigilantes” New Order
“Digital Dialogue” Flaamingos
“Me and Guiliani Down By the Schoolyard” !!!
“In The Summer” Crystal Fighters
“Joyride” Beautiful Swimmers
“The Walk” Mayer Hawthorne
“What You Need” The Weeknd
“Great Escape” Washed Out
“Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach” Gorillaz ft. Snoop Dogg
“Cruise (Don´t Stop)” Nightmares on Wax
“Passin’ Me By—Hot Chip Remix” The Pharcyde
“How Do You Do?” Hot Chip
“Second Summer” YACHT
“212” Azaelia Banks, Lazy Jay
“Bad Girls” M.I.A.
“It’s Code” Janelle Monáe
“Are You Can You Were You?” Shabazz Palaces
“Once Again” Handsome Boys Modeling School
“People Everyday Metamorphoses Mix” Arrested Development
“Strictly Business” EPMD
“Freaks” French Montana, Nicki Minaj
“How Do You Want It” 2Pac
“Juicy” Notorious B.I.G
“Rose Quartz” Toro Y Moi
“Border Line” King Krule
“We Disappear” Jon Hopkins
“I Believe” Simian Mobile Disco
“Turn It Up” Factory Floor
“When A Fire Starts To Burn” Disclosure
“Heartbeats” The Knife
Rainy Season Morning Pancakes
Sorry I haven’t put up a post here in a couple of months. I have been putting a lot of time into the other areas of my photography (like cute things and women in corsets). Still, I have been experimenting in the kitchen and listening to good music.
Those who haven’t lived in Japan, might not know the pleasures of the fifth season: rainy. Your clothes smell like sweat or mold. You wish for a sunny day, not so you can go to the beach, but so that you can do your laundry. For a California girl, Japan’s summers are too rainy, even outside of “rainy season.” But rain has its nice points, other than being good for the crops and flora. For a person like me who plans about 5,000 things in day, rain often forces me to stay inside, write songs, jam, edit photos. I also often make one of my favorite things in the world: gluten-free pancakes!
In Japan, I haven´t found gluten-free pancake mixes, so I´ve experimented a lot with different things I´ve found available here.
Rice flour (komeko).
Potato flour (katakuriko).
Sorghum flour. Natural House has both sorghum flour and sorghum pasta, and it´s not ridiculously expensive.
Buckwheat (soba) flour. In specialty markets I have found soba flour, but you have to double-check because soba is often mixed with wheat.
Corn flour or polenta. Yeah I was surprised how awesome this tastes.
Mill oats into oat flour. I know that some people don´t eat oats, and I haven´t really found any here that are certified gluten-free, but I personally take the risk with oats occasionally.
1 cup of flour. I usually mix two of the above, depending on what I have around.
¾ cup of milk. I often add a little bit more since gluten-free flours can sometimes suck up the liquid more than regular flour). I also have used coconut milk, rice milk, or mixtures.
1 tablespoon of olive oil in the batter and enough to coat the pan, but not too much!
1 tablespoon of baking powder.
1 tablespoon of honey or sugar If you´re going to put something really sweet on top, it´s not necessary.
Dried fruit or fresh fruit. I´ve found that fresh fruit usually works best when you put a couple of slices on top of the still-raw side of the pancake before you flip it over. Dried fruit is OK to mix in and having it in the liquid few minutes makes it soften up. I really love raisins in pancakes.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or allspice, or a combination! I almost use cinnamon because I´ve read that it helps our bodies better cope with insulin spikes, and all of these spices are good for digestion.
Nuts, either whole, broken into chunks, or pureed, depending on your taste.
• Mix all of the ingredients together (except for fresh fruit) until it´s not lumpy anymore.
• Heat up a skillet with a thin layer of olive oil about medium-high heat. Let the griddle heat up a little so that the heat becomes more even. In any case I´ve often found my first pancake is not as pretty as the rest.
• Fill up a spoon ladle about ¾ full with the batter and spoon it on the hot griddle. This makes it easier to control the mixture if you want tidier, round pancakes. If you want to put fresh fruit, you can put some on the top (raw) side. *You can also add spices to the raw side instead of mixing them in at the beginning. I often do this with cinnamon.
• When little bubbles are on the top side of the pancake, flip it over with a spatula. It´s difficult to say exactly how long to cook it, but the first pancake is always a bit of a trial for me. The key is to not let it get too burnt on the inside, but not still raw on the inside. You can poke it with a fork to check.
• Once you´ve cooked all the pancakes, put some syrup, honey, and/or fruit on top. You can serve them by themselves or with other sides. The bacon pictured above is apple-smoked bacon I found at Yamaya market in Shinjuku. Also, those are Hershey’s kisses on top, even though it kind of looks like unchi or eyes on a weird abstract table face. Just chocolate, I swear.
Music and Pancakes
So enjoy the pancakes, take your time to eat them. Grab a partner and put on some good music, or just leave the doors and windows open and listen to the rain. My playlist are some songs for relaxing on rainy day mornings. (Click on the photo above for a link to the list on Spotify.)
“Walkin’ on a Pretty Day” Kurt Vile
“Lips lips lips” Indians
“Harsh Realm” Widowspeak
“The Flower Lane” Ducktails
“You Won’t Be Missing That Part of Me” Melody’s Echo Chamber
“Knot Comes Loose” My Morning Jacket
“Into a Dream” Shannon and the Clams
“Sweepstakes Prize” Mirah
“Boyfriend” Best Coast
“The Summer” Coconut Records
“Take it Easy” Surfer Blood
“Caring is Creepy” The Shins
“Say Yes” Elliot Smith
“First Day of My Life” Bright Eyes
“Peace of Mind” Mikal Cronin
“Fineshrine” Purity Ring
“Fall Creek Boys Choir” James Blake, Bon Iver
“Casper (1995)” Speedy Ortiz
“Shelia” Atlas Sound
“Til the Morning” Bahamas
“Morning” Iron & Wine
“One Sunday Morning” Wilco
“Saturday Morning” Real Estate
“Sunday Morning” Velvet Underground
“Impregnable Question” Dirty Projectors
“She Don’t Use Jelly” Flaming Lips
“Friday Night, Saturday Morning” The Specials
“All the Sun That Shines” Peaking Lights
“Marilyn on a Train” The Cleaners from Venus
“Ghost Mouth” Girls
“I Set My Face the Hillside” Tortoise
“Sun in Your Eyes” Grizzly Bear
“Myth” Beach House
“House of Leaves” Salvia Plath
“Leaves Fall” Mansions on the Moon
“Acid Raindrops” People Under the Stairs
“Morning Fog” Dangermouse, Daniel Luppi
“Cloud Generator” Tycho
“Yuba Source Part II” Date Palms
“Backwards Berlin” Jagwar Ma
“Vur Hildegard Von Bengen” Devendra Banhart
“I Want the World to Stop” Belle & Sebastian
“Rad Pitt” Egyptian Hip Hop
“Like a Stranger” Bodies of Water
“Motor City” Sand Circles
“Air Conditioning” Kisses
“Not So Blue” Quantic
“Golden Light” STRFKR
“Miasma Sky” Baths
My boyfriend found a really awesome little gluten-free bakery for us to have a picnic. They had a few different kinds of breads, mini-pizzas, and sandwiches. Highly recommended. Click on the photo above for a link to the bakery. (Unfortunately, the gyoza was for my boyfriend and not gluten-free.) Also, the area is cute with a nice grassy area to sit and a really cool library. Some of the stuff we´ve been listening to this week: Mikal Cronin (on NPR first listen), Peaking Lights, Young Dreams, Matthew S. White, Yellow Ostrich, PINS, Low, Casual Sex, Shonen Knife, Seapony, probably lots of other stuff I´m forgetting. ;)
(Click on the photo above for Spotify playlist link)
I didn´t want to shop for anything, so I dug around in my cabinet and found the ingredients to make a one-pot quinoa dish, which I love because I have a one-burner stove and it´s less dishes to wash. Also I can do yoga while it´s simmering without worrying too much. Quinoa is a perfect one-pot meal and one of those ridiculously healthy gluten-free foods, loaded with amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins. It can be found in Japan at a lot of gourmet grocery stores and import stores like Kaldi, and it´s not that expensive when you consider that 1 dry cup of quinoa actually grows to 3-4 cups when cooked, and it can be a great replacement for meat or fish. Even plain quinoa is really yummy, or you can add just about anything to it—squeeze a little lemon, throw on some hot sauce, whatever you like.
A brief note about sustainability: some people do not believe it is ethical to eat quinoa. Quinoa prices have risen drastically, not just for foreigners but also for people in places like Boliva and Peru. This staple is now being replaced for cheaper, and often not as healthy, substitutions. Also, increased quinoa production has caused a range of problems in its main growing regions, including environmental impacts and land disputes. But not all the effects are negative on the communities, and personally, I follow a path of moderation in my life. Perhaps if we spend our money on quinoa, other people will investigate how to cultivate it. If I had a yard, I might explore cultivating it myself. Every consumer has to make his or her choice, but personally I like to eat it at least once or twice a month, to give my diet variety. I don´t have a lot of non-rice, gluten-free options available in Japan, so this provides a nice supplement. Also, I used to be vegetarian for many years, so sometimes I don´t like the spiritual weight of meat. As I am a little allergic to soy and should only eat it occasionally, quinoa is the only other plant-based complete protein.
What I used today
(Remember that these are just ideas! Quinoa is like rice and think about how many people all over the world make rice differently. Improvise; have fun.)
Quinoa (2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa; I used 2 ½ cups of quinoa)
Liquid (water, broth, whatever creative combination) I used 2 cups coconut milk, a dash of soy sauce, 1 cup of tomato sauce and about 2 cups of water).
Veggies: I used about 1/6 red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 carrot, ¼ cabbage, some mushrooms, and a BUNCH of Italian parsley, because I can never have enough cilantro or Italian parsley.
Spices: I added garlic powder, paprika, salt, fresh ground pepper (I don´t measure spices, ever, but I usually add throughout my cooking process and keep tasting.) I also add a little Mexican hot sauce, but I´m Californian, so what can I say?
Other stuff I added for this particular recipe: juice of 1 lemon, honey, a can of garbanzos, and a little pork we had left over.
How to Make it:
Step 1: Rinse quinoa. I know, annoying. I don´t like it either. But with a fine-mesh strainer it´s easy. Frankly, I´ve skipped this step before and the quinoa still turned out really amazing, but I´ve read it´s better to rinse it.
Step 2: While quinoa is draining in the strainer, chop up the veggies.
Step 3: Add olive oil to a big, deep pot over medium-high heat. Lightly sauté the onion, garlic, meat, until a little browned. Add the quinoa, now dry.
Step 4: Quickly toast the quinoa with the previous ingredients.
Step 5: Add your liquid first, then the vegetables you´re using, especially those that require a good cooking. I also added the garbanzos at this point.
Step 6: Allow the pot to boil without the lid on.
Step 7: Once it has a good boil, put the lid on and turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes.
Step 8: Fluff and eat! (The quinoa has little spirally strands that stick out when it´s cooked, of if in doubt, taste a little bit.) I also sometimes leave the quinoa in the pot longer, because it will stay pretty warm in there, and that way I know it´s cooked and the flavors have had time to collaborate.
So, that´s one idea, but I always try to use up things in my cabinet, and sometimes I am surprised how different flavors work well together. I had enough for my boyfriend and I, plus enough for both of us to have a big bento the next day. I didn´t even heat mine up—tasted yummy cold!
Today´s music bit: After I made this quinoa my boyfriend brought me a surprise: a record by ¨Ai Aoki¨ because her album cover reminded him of my performance. Funny thing is that I had actually seen that album in a Spanish blog entry (Polisermismo, ¨The 10 best Japanese album covers¨) a few months ago and thought her look was awesome. Lately I´ve been doing my toy music concerts dressed as a Spacebot, and apparently she is kind of a Japanese cult artist who always dresses up like a Spacebot. So basically, she is my new idol. I haven´t found much out about her yet, but you can listen to one of her songs here: **http://youtu.be/UoTRV1-vWSo**. So the theme of my playlist is ¨Spacebot Love.¨ (Click on the photo above to be directed to the playlist) The artists are all either aliens, robots (I mean it in the most flattering way) or artists who make music about them (or for them to dance to), or all of the above.
When I was a little girl, I wanted an Easy Bake oven. Now I live in Japan, so basically, my dream came true. As I realized this, staring in at my gluten-free pan de queso buns, I wondered if they still make Easy Bake Ovens? And this is what I found–http://www.hasbro.com/easy-bake/en_US/ Thing is, for all the gaijin criticism Japan gets for teaching its little girls to be kawaii, domestic, and useless, it is interesting to see; after spending significant time in Japan; how strongly American media promotes the same messages even today. Either way, I love baking, for some socialization process, because my Mom and I used to bake Christmas cookies together, because I’m gluten-free and need to for cookie craving survival, not sure. Still I can be independent and useful, even if I like to bake pan de queso for my boyfriend in an Easy Bake oven.